Kathakali, a religious
dance-drama tradition, originated in Kerala, in
southern India. Kathakali literally means enactment
of stories. Traditionally it is a male dominated
performing art practiced
by the warrior caste. The style evolved in the
17th century from techniques derived from Sanskrit
classical text, regional ritualistic folk theatre
and traditional art forms that included dance
movements, facial expressions, elaborate hand
gestures, music, theatre and martial art.
The transformation of human
actors into the shape and personality of gods,
titans and demons of the netherworld is unique
to Kathakali making Aharya Abhinaya (enactment
of stories, while dressed in the assumed get-up
of the mythological characters) the basis of the
The art of Kathakali make-up
has profound undertones of feeling and mood associated
with it. It is cultivated, not only with great
skill and care, but almost as a ritual, so that
through this prolonged process, which begins several
hours before the performance, the actor will grow
into the symbolic character he is to portray through
a gradual involvement.
The gestural language of
Kathakali is a grammatically complete language
of hand symbols equivalent to speech. Stylised
eye movement is a technique unique to Kathakali.
Ayurvedic massage is part and parcel of the Kathakali
training and performance tradition.